Georgia Museum of Art receives major photography gift

The Georgia Museum of Art at the University of Georgia has received a gift of nearly 3,000 photographs with a current appraised value of nearly $8 million. The gift dramatically expands the museum’s collection of photography and establishes the institution as a major repository for 20th century works in this medium.

“The University of Georgia is incredibly grateful for this transformative gift to the museum,” said President Jere W. Morehead. “We are proud to be home to this significant collection of photography, which will benefit scholars and visitors from across Georgia and the U.S. and elevate our state’s official museum of art to a new level.”

The gift came from three sets of donors:

  • Patrick (Pat) and Patricia A. Kennedy, of San Leandro, California, who donated 2,884 photographs by the American “magic realist” photographer Arthur Tress, 62 photographs by Australian photographer Lewis Morley and a small group of prints by American photographers Harry Callahan, Joel Levinson and Ezra Stoller.
  • David Knaus, another California-based photography collector, who donated prints by the self-described American “social documentary photographer” Milton Rogovin.
  • Michelle Melin-Rogovin, Milton Rogovin’s daughter-in-law, who donated prints by her father-in-law.

Knaus, a founding member of the J. Paul Getty Museum Photographs Council, brought the parties together and helped direct the gift to UGA. Pat Kennedy is the former CEO and majority owner of OSIsoft, a manufacturer of application software for real-time data management. He attended the University of Kansas, where he received bachelor’s and doctoral degrees in chemical engineering. He and his wife, Patricia, have previously donated photography to the National Gallery of Art, the Yale Center for British Art and the University of Pennsylvania Libraries.

William Underwood Eiland, director of the Georgia Museum of Art, said, “In one fell swoop, the donors of these works have propelled the Georgia Museum of Art and its newest initiative into national prominence, allowing it to join the Getty Museum, Stanford and the University of Pennsylvania not only as beneficiaries of the generosity of these far-sighted patrons but also in providing a locus for deeper study and more widespread enjoyment of photography and the media arts.”

Stanford University holds the master archive of Arthur Tress’ work, making UGA’s collection only the second comprehensive archive of his work in the country. The University of Pennsylvania also owns 2,500 photographs, along with the artist’s collection of Japanese illustrated books, and the J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles is planning a major monographic exhibition of his photography.

Tress received a commission through the U.S. government to photograph the endangered folkways of Appalachia, making his work’s presence in a Southern museum especially meaningful. This experience spurred his environmental awareness and led to a series focused on resource extraction and the human costs of pollution. His “magic realist” period, possibly his best known, combined spontaneous aspects of everyday life with staged fantasies. Tress’ photography is widely published, exhibited and collected. It can be found in public institutions such as the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Centre Pompidou, the Smithsonian American Art Museum and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art.

Milton Rogovin was deeply concerned with the poor and with workers’ rights. He made series on the plight of miners across 10 countries (beginning with mining communities in Appalachia), the decline of industry in Buffalo and the struggle of working people in Buffalo’s impoverished Lower West Side. The master collection of his photographs is held by the Center for Creative Photography, and the Library of Congress also owns a major collection of his photographs and negatives.

Lewis Morley was a self-taught photographer whose career spanned fashion, theater, reportage and portrait photography. His most iconic works include a portrait of Christine Keeler and the first published photographs of models and actors such as Twiggy, Jean Shrimpton and Michael Caine. He is considered one of the most significant photographic voices of 1960s Britain. Only four museum sets of Morley’s work exist, making this group of prints the fourth to enter an institutional collection.

Jeffrey Richmond-Moll, the museum’s curator of American art, stated, “This gift is a remarkable catalyst for exhibitions, research and teaching in modern and contemporary photography at the museum and dovetails magnificently with our recent rapid growth in contemporary art. I am eager to share these major additions to the collection in our galleries — beginning in fall 2021 with an exhibition that includes Arthur Tress and Milton Rogovin’s photographs of Appalachia — and through courses, internships and ever-deepening partnerships with students and scholars of photography across our campus.”

You can see selections from the gift in the exhibition “Inside Look: Selected Acquisitions from the Georgia Museum of Art,” on view September 18, 2021 through January 30, 2022.